Dissertation: Language Policy and Nation-building in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Sep 8 15:01:30 UTC 2007

Language Policy and Nation-building in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Program: PhD
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007

Author: Jon Orman

Dissertation Title: Language Policy and Nation-building in
Post-Apartheid South Africa

Dissertation Director:
Leigh Oakes

Dissertation Abstract:

While not essential, the link between language and national identity
is nevertheless often a highly important and salient one, a fact
illustrated by the centrality of linguistic concerns in many
nationalist discourses throughout the world. As a result of this
linkage, it is understandable that those seeking to create or
manipulate national identities have
habitually attempted to do so through the formulation and
implementation of language policy and planning. This thesis develops a
broad theoretical framework for the study of national identity and
language policy. Of particular interest is the manner in which these
two phenomena frequently interact and the societal consequences of
that interaction.

South Africa represents a fascinating historical and contemporary
context in which to investigate the effect of language policy and
planning on the formation of social identities. From the earliest
stages of European colonisation to the present day, successive
governing regimes have attempted to manipulate the various ethnic and
national identities of the South African population to suit their own
ideological agendas. In the post-apartheid era, much has been made of
the government's official policy
commitment to promote 'nation-building' through the
institutionalisation of genuinely multilingual practices in public
life. In reality, though, public life in present-day South Africa is
notable for its increasingly monolingual-English character. This
contradiction between official policy and actual linguistic practices
is symptomatic of the hegemony of an implicit 'English-only' ideology
that permeates most governmental and public organisations. This has
led to a situation of highly salient language-based identity conflict
between many Afrikaans speakers resentful of the decreasing presence
of Afrikaans in public life and those loyal to the de facto
monolingual model of nationhood promoted by the ANC. But perhaps the
most pernicious consequence of this increasing dominance of English
has been its entrenchment of elitist governing practices that
ensure the continued socio-economic marginalisation of African
language speakers who constitute the large majority of South African
citizens. If language planners are to convincingly address this
problem, it is clear that a radically alternative model of language
policy and national integration needs to be promoted and adopted.


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